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Ther Drug Monit. 2014 Apr;36(2):169-74. doi: 10.1097/

Development and validation of a liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry assay to quantify plasma busulfan.

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*Department of Laboratory Medicine; †UCSF Medical Center; and ‡Department of Clinical Pharmacy, University of California-San Francisco; and §Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia.



Busulfan is an anti-leukemic, DNA alkylating agent that is used in conditioning regimens for patients undergoing hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. Because of the large intraindividual and interindividual variations seen in busulfan pharmacokinetics, therapeutic drug monitoring is necessary. Currently at the authors' institution, plasma busulfan in adults is measured by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) at a reference laboratory, whereas pediatric specimens are sent to a different reference laboratory also for GC-MS analysis. As the result turnaround time is not optimal and this practice is of significant cost, a liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry assay to quantify plasma busulfan was developed.


Protein precipitation with D8-busulfan (deuterated internal standard) in acetonitrile was carried out on 50 µL of heparinized plasma. Gradient elution with ammonium acetate, formic acid, water, and methanol at 0.6 mL/min had a 4-minute run time. Multiple reaction monitoring was employed using Q1/Q3 transitions of 264/151 and 264/55 for busulfan and 272/159 and 272/62 for D8-busulfan.


Sample preparation took ∼30 minutes for 6 patient samples. Six calibrators were used (0-2000 ng/mL) with 3 quality controls (means of 12, 356, and 1535 ng/mL). The limits of detection and quantitation were 1 and 6 ng/mL, respectively. Extraction recovery was ∼77% and ion suppression ∼5%. Within-run and between-run precision studies yielded <15% coefficient of variation at the limit of quantitation and <6% coefficient of variation through the rest of the linear range. Method comparisons between this assay and 2 GC-MS assays revealed mean biases of 7% and 1%.


An accurate, rapid, and sensitive liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry assay for quantification of plasma busulfan was developed. This assay reduces current specimen volume requirements, reduces result turnaround time for patients and clinicians, and additionally saves institutional funds.

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